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Harvard University Herbaria

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Harvard University Herbaria
Harvard University Herbaria

The Harvard University Herbaria and Botanical Museum are institutions located on the grounds of Harvard University at 22 Divinity Avenue, Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Botanical Museum is one of three which comprise the Harvard Museum of Natural History.

The Herbaria, founded in 1842 by Asa Gray, are one of the 10 largest in the world with over 5 million specimens, and including the Botany Libraries, form the world's largest university owned herbarium. The Gray Herbarium is named after him.[1] HUH hosts the Gray Herbarium Index (GCI) as well as an extensive specimen, botanist, and publications database. HUH was the center for botanical research in the United States of America by the time of its founder's retirement in the 1870s. The materials deposited there are one of the three major sources for the International Plant Names Index.[2]

The Botanical museum was founded in 1858. It was originally called the Museum of Vegetable Products and was predominantly focused on an interdisciplinary study of useful plants (i.e. economic botany and horticulture). The nucleus of materials for this museum was donated by Sir William Hooker, the Director of the Royal Botanic Garden. Professor George Lincoln Goodale became the museum's first director in 1888; under his direction the building was completed in 1890 and provided both research facilities and public exhibit space, which were the botanical complement to the "Agassiz" Museum of Comparative Zoology. Three successive directors substantially enlarged the collections of economic products, medicinal plants, artifacts, archeological materials, pollen, and photographs.

Faculty and students continue to add significantly to the extensive paleobotanical collections, particularly Precambrian material containing early life forms.

The Oakes Ames Collection of Economic Botany, the Paleobotanical Collection (including the Pollen Collection), and the Margaret Towle Collection of Archaeological Plant Remains are housed in the Botanical Museum building. The Botany libraries and various herbaria are located in the Harvard University Herbaria building. The Botany Libraries collectively are a founding member of the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

The Ware Collection of Glass Models of Plants, popularly known as the "Glass Flowers," are considered one of the University's great treasures. Commissioned by Goodale, sponsored by Elizabeth C. Ware and her daughter Mary (Goodale's former student), and created by Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka from 1887 through 1936, the collection comprises approximately 4,400 models including life-size and enlarged parts for over 840 species. This is the only collection of its type in the world.

The Botanical Museum of Harvard University and the other museums that comprise the Harvard Museum of Natural History are physically connected to the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology and one admission grants visitors access to all museums.

The Herbaria publishes the journal Harvard Papers in Botany.

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[APPLAUSE] MARLYN E. MCGRATH: Good afternoon. I'm Marlyn McGrath, and I want to, again, thank you all for joining us, welcome you to Visitas Thinks Big, which draws great crowds. Let me tell you what we're about to do, though, the problem tells you a little bit about what we're going to do. Let me tell you what we're not going to do. This is not an info session, not an information session. This is not the moment when you're going to learn which courses you would have to take to do statistics and classics. There will be time for that tomorrow. You'll all have a chance-- if you're staying over, and I hope you are-- to meet with faculty and students who are concentrating in various areas. And you'll get whatever information you actually want about the curricular offerings, the support offerings in the way of museums, and practice rooms, and laboratories and so on. Lots of information will come at you tomorrow. This isn't now. This is a Sunday afternoon entertainment program. This is performance. I'm of the belief-- and some of you have heard me say this before-- that one of the many problems with the admissions process is that you may-- if you're a successful candidate at colleges as you have been, apparently. It's very easy to imprison yourself in a persona. You think of yourself as the geologist who does rock climbing and plays the violin or whatever it is that we were so impressed by, and that's terrific. And we assume it's all true and so on, and it's wonderful that all of that stuff need not imprison you in that person who was admitted to Harvard and many other places, I'm sure. We will not pull your admission away from you because you turn out to be the geologist who turned into a musician. This is your life, your freedom. That's part of what a liberal education means. Therefore, we want to dazzle you today with many things, of course, with Harvard in general because we would love you to come, but we also want you to get a sense of what we really are like. If Harvard or whatever college you enroll in doesn't change your mind or at least open it, you may have wasted your time, and we hope to rattle your cage a little bit if you come here. I don't know how many of you remember-- there may be some parents who remember it better in the room-- a wonderful masterpiece of a children's book-- at least one of my favorites for my children-- by Richard Scarry called, What Do People Do All Day. Well, this is our presentation of that there are five fabulous faculty members who will tell you not what the requirements are for concentrating in their field or how you can get to know their colleagues better, but what they do all day, what kinds of things excite them. Really, why they're here, why they teach, why they love universities. So our first speaker is Robin Kelsey, who is the Shirley Carter Burden Professor of Photography and the Dean of Arts and Humanities at Harvard. He has many things he does and many distinctions, but one you should know about is that he's the co-chair of the Harvard University Committee on the Arts. Also, he's affiliated with Kirkland House-- one of our 12 residential houses, more about that later in different parts of these days here. He got his PhD at the History of Art and Architecture from Harvard, but he's really a Yaley. He went to that great institution in Connecticut. He also, interestingly enough, has a JD from the Yale Law School-- also that fine place in Connecticut. But he writes books with many wonderful titles such as, The Photography and the Art of Chance, which was just published by the Harvard Press in 2015. So without further ado or further introduction, I'll introduce Robin. Thank you [APPLAUSE] ROBIN KELSEY: Good afternoon, Visitas Thinks Big. When I was young and my father said, hey, what's the big idea? He didn't want a big idea, he wanted an apology. But I'll try to give you a big idea today without an apology, and I'm going to start with this morning when you got up. And I suspect within a few seconds, maybe minutes, you checked your favorite electronic device. Maybe you went on Facebook, Twitter, posted something on Instagram, or maybe you used some apps that your parents and I have never heard of. Your habitual uses of social media probably feel automatic, but it's worth recalling that every time you get on these apps, every time you use social media, you are affirming your belonging in a virtual community. Whether that's Facebook friends or Twitter followers, you are asserting your belonging in a virtual community. A virtual community that is held together electronically by servers, apps, and so forth, but virtual communities that are held within you most vividly in your imagination. These are imagined communities. I Stole my title. I Stole it from a book by Benedict Anderson, a scholar who passed away a couple of years ago. One of Benedict Anderson's big ideas was that people tended to overlook the obvious fact that the modern nation is itself an imagined community. Americans may be willing to die for America, but they actually know only a tiny fraction of other Americans. Their belonging to this community of Americans involves the imagination. Another insight that Anderson had is that these imagined communities called nations are finite, and they are surrounded by other imagined communities called nations so that these imagined communities are defined oppositionally. That is to say, if you are Brazilian, that means quite precisely, especially when it comes to soccer, that you are not Argentinian. And if you are Canadian, as my Canadian friends constantly remind me, it means precisely that you are not an American. Benedict Anderson spend a lot of his career thinking deeply about why it is in the modern period there emerged these imagined communities called nations. Another of his big ideas was that certain technologies and their uses gave rise to and supported these imagined communities. In particular, Anderson associated the rise of the modern nation with the emergence of what he called print capitalism. When people in the 19th or 20th century sat down to read the morning paper, that act may have seemed very solitary and private, but in fact, that act asserted a belonging to an imagined community of people who were doing the same thing that morning-- reading the paper, digesting matters of common concern. And with this synchrony, an imagined community formed. And what Anderson argued is that without this capacity through print to disseminate this news so readily across a nation, the modern nation state would not have emerged. One corollary of this insight is that these nation states are bound linguistically. There are German newspapers. There are Portuguese newspapers. There are newspapers in Mandarin, right? And these languages are part of the national self-definition of these imagined communities. We can build upon Anderson to talk about the role that other technologies have played in the formation and sustenance of imagined communities. One technology near and dear to my heart is photography. Alongside print media, photography has played a key role in the development of imagined communities. I show you here on the left two album pages from a 19th century photography album. These are small photographs on little pieces of cardboard. They recalled carte de visite. They were extraordinarily popular-- produced in the millions in the middle of the 19th century. The figures you see on these cards are all dressed in Norwegian costumes, and I used this example to show that photography could reinforce the notion of a national identity, such as Anderson was concerned about. On the right, you see a very different album page. This one from a Victorian English album in which the maker of the album has cut out people from different photographs and pasted them together fancifully in this imagined scene in a parlor. And what this album page can remind us is that photographs tend to circulate very promiscuously and therefore able to overcome some of the rigid boundaries that the album pages on the left would suggest. Now photography, as an instrument of imagined communities, had some very particular characteristics. For one thing, it was not based on language. And one of the aspects of photography that captivated the social imagination when photography was first introduced in 1839 was precisely this potential for a kind of universality-- that everyone sitting before the camera would register in the same way and that photographs were legible to people who spoke different languages and came from different cultures. So for these reasons, photography was thought to be particularly suited to a time in which there was great democratic fervor, as there was in the 19th century. Here we go. I wanted to show you some quotations to give you a flavor of the various people who, in the early years of photography, articulated this remarkable quality of the medium that whereas, in painting and drawing, the making of the picture tended to be mediated by all kinds of conventions such that a painter would render the nobility in an idealized fashion but tend to caricature the poor and the downtrodden-- But that photography treated everyone more or less the same. And this was a remarkable principle that writers ranging from the transcendentalist Emerson to the abolitionist Frederick Douglass noted. This universalist potential of photography has surfaced time and again in its history. After the second World War when the emergence of the atomic bomb raised the specter of national differences and strife resulting in the destruction of the planet, hopes were placed in photography to be an agent of the creation of an imagined global community. This universality of photography was thought to have the capacity to transcend national boundaries and differences. And in 1955, Edward Steichen, a curator at the Museum of Modern Art, put on a very famous show called The Family of Man in which he tried to make a case that we are bonded across cultures and across these differences by certain universals of human culture-- whether that be eating together, or dancing, or singing. And it's crucial that for Steichen, photography was the medium that would convey that universalism because it itself was a universal medium. Now the problem is that technologies rarely fulfilled their utopian potential, and the same is true of photography. Although, many writers, and curators, and thinkers have noted the possibility that photography could bond people in this fashion. In point of fact, photography has been used time and again to create imagined communities that are based on difference, subjugation, and subordination. So to just give you three examples, on the left, this is an early mugshot from the late 19th century to remind us that an imagined community of law abiding citizens has been generated against those who are considered outlaws. Or the middle photograph, a long duration photograph showing the motion of a worker to be used to try to increase the mechanical efficiency of workers on the assembly line-- defining an imagined community of managers who would define themselves against a working class. Or on the right, a photograph that can remind us of the complicity of photography in colonialism, and the defining of a certain imagined community as belonging to the civilized against those who are allegedly less civilized. The history of photography, as I have sketched it out in this brief time, feels very resident to me today where were undergoing this seismic shift from print capitalism to screen capitalism. And where we have a technology called the internet which came with all kinds of utopian dreams, but very recently has evidently shown a propensity for a kind of echo chamber fragmentation pitting one imagined community against another. And to remind us of that, I just put in the upper right an announcement of the release of Barack Obama's birth certificate-- a very sober, every day document that you think might be a kind of object of consensus, but in point of fact, is viewed so divisively by these different imagined communities. And I leave you with the idea that one of the great challenges of your generation is going to be to help us figure out how to foster and sustain the imagined communities that we need and how to connect them to a reality that stubbornly resides outside our digital dreams. Thank you very much [APPLAUSE] MARLYN E. MCGRATH: Thank you. That was really-- that was terrific, thank you. Elena Kramer is our next speaker. And she is the Bussey Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, and she's also the chair of the Organismic and Evolutionary Biology Department. She also has been named a Harvard College professor which speaks to her devotion to teaching undergraduates. That's generally true of our faculty but worth noting that she happens to have that recognition. She's also what we call a member of the Senior Common Room. In other words, she's affiliated with Leverett House, another one of our 12 undergraduate houses. She has her PhD from Yale-- that great place in Connecticut-- in her science. Her lab at Harvard does something quite fascinating. Not what I, a non-scientist, think first when I think of what scientists-- even life scientists-- do. She's interested particularly in how flowers have changed over the course of evolution, and she explores topics like gene lineage, evolution, and the diversification of petals and fruits. There's more than a little aesthetics in this, and with further ado, Lena. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] ELENA KRAMER: All right. Well, thank you so much for coming out here today. It's a thrill to be here with you. So, as you just heard, I'm a plant biologist. I study the evolution of genetic programs that control the development, particularly of flowers. Now, I have to admit, I've sat next to a lot of people on planes and told them that I was a plant biologist. And often, their reaction is, help me find out why my fern is dying, or something like that. I don't keep things alive. This is the problem. I like to grind them up in little test tubes and things like that, so don't ask me how to keep something alive. But we talk in plant biology about plant blindness. People often don't appreciate the importance of plants in our everyday life, but I think we can all agree that flowers are very compelling and charismatic. As a human civilization, we've had a fascination with flowers, really, from the beginning. And what we're really trying to understand in our lab is how we have, over the course of evolution, generated this enormous diversity of floral morphology, and then, particularly, how changes in the genetic programs that control these developmental processes has generated the change in morphology. And in order to do that, we work at the intersection of sort of three different fields. We ask different types of questions. So for instance, we're very interested in development. Very specifically, what are the patterns of cell division and cell expansion, the duration, their localization, and how do these different patterns generate the morphology that we're interested in? So we ask very specific questions about how morphology changes over time. And then we overlay this information with information about the genes. How do different genes interact with each other on a local scale, on a global scale, on the genomic scale? And ask how these genetic programs control the developmental processes. And then we take all of those questions and we put them in an evolutionary context, and say, well, when we ask all these questions in one species then we compare them to a different species, what aspects of these processes are the same, what aspects are different, and can we understand how those differences arise? So when we put all those things together, that's a field called evo-devo, or evolutionary developmental biology. So we're essentially asking how morphological diversity is generated over time at a molecular level. So, why don't we use plants as a model system? So if you'll let me proselytize for a moment about why plants are such a wonderful model system. I'm a developmental biologist. If I was an animal developmental biologist, I would only be focused on a very narrow window of that organism's life-- what we typically call embryogenesis, from fertilization to some type of hatching. But in plants, the fantastic thing about plants is that if they are alive, they are undergoing development. If we look at this plant embryo, you can immediately recognize that while, yes, there was a developmental process that took this from a single cell to this embryo, this is not the entirety of the body of a plant. So this enormous oak tree started out as this tiny embryo, and it is in a constant state of organogenesis and producing new organs in order to generate its body. And all around us-- I mean, we finally got to go outside today and enjoy a little bit of nice weather-- you can see trees all over campus, things coming up from the ground, these are plants that are undergoing organogenesis even in what we would consider their adult body. And plants can do that because all throughout their body, they have reservoirs of undifferentiated cells-- stem cells. Now, my animal colleagues get really excited about stem cells. Stem cells are nothing for plants. They've got stem cells to spare, and their stem cells are arranged in these specific regions called meristems. They're domes of undifferentiated cells. So when I tell you that I want to understand floral development, this is where we start. We start with a dome of undifferentiated cells, and we look at how that set of cells changes over time to generate floral morphology. So, this is our big problem. We have about 350,000 species of flowering plants that have arisen over the past 150 million years. That's a big problem. I don't try-- I'm not looking at that scale, right? You have to start with something tractable, and what we work with is a model system called Aquilegia-- that you may know as Columbine. A lot of you may have this in your yards at home. It is what we call a recently radiated species flock. So let me explain to you what that is. Why is Aquilegia a good model system? So obviously, it's very pretty, but it's also very tractable from a molecular standpoint. It has a relatively small genome, about 300 million base pairs, and you'll take my word for it that that's manageable. We have a fully sequenced genome. We also have a lot of functional tools that allow us to trick the plant into doing things that we want it to do. It also has a wonderful array of morphological novelty. So, I mentioned that this is a radiated species flock. What am I talking about? I'm talking about that when we study the evolutionary history of this genus, when we reconstruct its phylogeny, and understand how the species are related to each other, we see that these species have radiated over a period of one to six million years, which is relatively recent. And in fact, the North American radiation that's pictured here is less than a million years. So these are very closely related species. That means that they're also interfertile, and that's something that makes the geneticists sit up and take notice because we can cross these species. Even species that look quite different from one another, we can hybridize them and then look at how their traits segregate in later generations, and map the molecular changes that are responsible for the differences in morphology. So this means that we have traditional developmental genetic tools, and we also have a lot of evolutionary genetic tools that make it a good model system. OK, so let's step back a second. I'm going to tell you a little bit about floral morphology and floral development. So, this is what you usually think of when you think about a flower. You may have a little bit of plant biology, maybe in elementary school, and they told you that there are four different kinds of floral organs, right? So you have sepals that are the productive organs, the attractive petals that are involved in manipulating pollinators, the male stamens, and the female carpels. And these organs are arranged in what we call whorls-- they're concentric circles. So moving, you get sepals, petals, stamens and carpels. And about 30 years ago, molecular biologists working in a number of different model systems defined a genetic program called the ABC Model, and this is a model that tells us how each of these floral organs figures out during development what flavor of origin it wants to be. So for instance, there are three different classes of genes, the a, b, and c-class genes. If you are primordium in the first whorl, you're only exposed to A function, and that tells you to be a sepal. In the second whorl, you have A and B function that tells you to be a petal. Stamens are exposed to B and C together and then carpels to C alone. So this is what we call a combinatorial code. Each little position in the floral meristem has a different set of genes, and that tells the organ what kind of organ to be. And the way that they came up with this program was by examining mutants, and developmental geneticists, we love mutants. We make mutants all the time. We like to knock out gene function and then infer from the way the plant looks-- or any other organism-- the way it looks what the function of that gene must be. And the genes that comprise the ABC program have something in common that when you knock them out with mutation, you dramatically change floral morphology. You transform the identity of one organ into the identity of another. And so here, for instance, if you eliminate this B-class gene, then all you have are A and C functions in the floral meristem. And the petals turn into sepals, and the stamens turn into carpels. And this is a complete transformation, so this highlights how minor genetic changes can have really profound effects on morphology. So these are the kinds of genetic programs that we think about when we think about floral evolution. OK, so how are we applying this kind of model in the context of our model system, Aquilegia? So there's a lot of interesting things about Aquilegia flowers. These guys, up here, those are the sepals. And usually, you think about sepals as being green and protective, but these are not just green and protective, they're bright red, or sometimes blue, or white, or yellow. They're what we call petaloid, which just means that they're showing. So this is an interesting question. Here, we have the ecological function of pollinator attraction that has been transferred from the inner whorl of the flower to the outer whorl of the flower. So how does that happen, and what's going on at the molecular level in order to make these sepals bright and showy? Another really interesting aspect of the Aquilegia flower is this nectar spur. So the true petals in the second whorl have this long, tubular structure that terminates in a nectary, and you can just imagine all the things that Aquilegia is doing to manipulate pollinators to make them go all the way down here and get the nectar. So there's all kinds of things that we can study here related to how the spurs first evolved. They're what we call a key innovation that were important for the radiation of the genus. And what is the genetic basis of their diversification in morphology? They get longer and shorter, and they're curved into different shapes. So we're studying all these different aspects across species of Aquilegia. And then one of my favorite things about Aquilegia flower that I didn't even realize until I started dissecting them is that they actually have five types of floral organs. They have this fifth type of organ called the staminodium, which is a sterile organ positioned between the male stamens and the female carpels. So, how the heck does that-- how does that work? The ABC Model gives us a very elegant mechanism for giving us four types of floral organs, what happens when we intercalate a fifth type of floral organ into that genetic program? So we've been studying all of these questions. Another one that I'm going to show you today is, we've been interested in this question about, how does the flower know when to stop? You think about a flower. Once it makes those carpels, then it stops. It doesn't make any other floral organs, and that's actually a very carefully controlled genetic process. In most of the flowers you might think of, there may only be one whorl of stamens like in this Snapdragon. But here, we're looking down on an Aquilegia flower, you can see that there are many whorls of stamens, so how does the meristem decide how many whorls it's going to make? And to investigate this, we started by actually working with these C-class genes because this makes sense when you think about it. It turns out, the C-class genes confer the identity of the stamens and the carpels, but in conferring identity of the carpels, they tell the floral meristem to stop. So, what we want to ask is, what happens when we knock out the function of these genes? And in Aquilegia, we use a molecular tool to trick the plant into silencing our gene of interest. And when we do that-- here's a wild type Aquilegia flower, and here's a flower where we have used this trick to silence the C-class gene. And you can already see it's looking a little weird, but as it develops, you see that the stamens are completely replaced by petals. And the staminodium, that novel organ, and the carpels are both replaced by sepals. And when we look inside the flower, you may not be able to see this, but there are actually dozens and dozens of whorls of organs here, so it's clear that this gene also controls floral meristem termination. Now, this was actually just the first step in this project. We were trying to confirm that this gene functions the same way in Aquilegia that it functions in other species. We expected it to be conserved because, in fact, all around you, you see mutants. These are all mutant varieties. So here's a rose, a daffodil, and a peony. Where on the left, you see the wild type flower that has a single whorl of petals and many whorls of stamens. And on the right, you see an Agonis mutant that has the transformation of stamen identity into petal identity and the indeterminancy of the floral meristem. So actually, you're looking at mutants all the time, you may just not have known it. So homeotic or transformative mutants have always been very unpopular in horticulture. So, I hope I've convinced you that evo-devo is an interesting field. If you're not totally taken by plant biology as I am, you might be interested in some of my other colleagues-- Mansi Srivastava, who studies these fascinating little flatworms that have the capacity to regenerate their entire bodies from just small fragments of their body. They're actually thought to be immortal. My colleague, Cassandra Extavour, who studies the evolution of the genetic pathways that control germ line specification, which is incredibly important for evolution and development. Cliff Tabin over at the medical school studies the diversification of vertebrates and particularly the vertebral column itself. Why don't snakes have any limbs? Why do ostriches have such long necks? My colleague Terry Capellini over in Human Evolutionary Biology is actually using evo-devo approaches to understand the evolution of the skeleton in humans. So he uses mouse models a lot, but what he's ultimately interested in is actually human skeletal evolution. So that's everything I want to tell you about evo-devo, so thank you. [APPLAUSE] MARLYN E. MCGRATH: Roland Fryer is our next speaker. He is currently the Henry Lee Professor of Economics at Harvard and Faculty Director of the Education Innovation Laboratory. He has, among our faculty members, one of the more interesting life academic stories. He went to UT Austin as an undergraduate on an athletic scholarship. He did not do that forever. Eventually, he got a PhD in economics and so on. Along the way, he's been awarded many of the most prestigious and somehow dazzling awards like a MacArthur Genius Fellowship, and he won the John Bates Clark Medal for the greatest, that year, under 40 economists and so on. His work focuses on education in inequality and race, and it draws an economic theory and empirical evidence in all other contextual elements. He did note somewhere when he was speaking about his career that one element of his diverse view of the world is that he had a job along the way before he became a Henry Lee professor working at McDonald's in drive-thru, not in corporate. But he's seen all of these worlds, and he studies some aspects of that. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] ROLAND FRYER: Good afternoon. What I'm most proud of actually is that at my advanced age, I still spend two hours a morning working out with the Harvard football team, so that's the most proud I am. How many of you actually want to change the world? It's OK, you can raise your hands. You don't have to be like this. OK, how are you going to change the world? You. Well, but that was rude, you're right. I'm Roland, how are you going to change the world? AUDIENCE: I'm Hassad [INAUDIBLE]. I want to change the world by being an attorney. ROLAND FRYER: Awesome. You guys went simultaneously on the hand, so I'll go both. What about you? AUDIENCE: I want to be an astronaut and learn more about space. ROLAND FRYER: Astronaut and learn more about space. Sorry, the lights are super in my face, so I can't really see upstairs. But anyone upstairs want to change the world? There we go. AUDIENCE: I want to build robots that save people in natural disasters. ROLAND FRYER: Wow, that's cool. Build robots-- that's amazing. A million years ago when I was your age, I also wanted to change the world. I wanted to go to the NFL. Let me rephrase that, I wanted to change my world. Maybe that could have some spill-overs to other people. And I was interested two things. I wanted to wear t-shirts to work. I thought that would be cool. And I wanted to have a room full of shoes. I don't know what the second one is about. And to be clear, I've accomplished both of them, but I really wanted a room full of shoes. Now, what I do for a living is that I raise lots of private resources to run programs in communities across the United States. And I'm an economist, but I'm interested in racial inequality. That's like a little bit of a weird thing. That's like an oxymoron like jumbo shrimp or something. That's weird, right? Economists-- we're really careful and analytical, but caring about other people's not typically our thing. But what I do-- I love the economic method. I really love-- like when I was in graduate school, I got totally fascinated with the tools like the separating hyperplane theorem. I was just blown away with the beautiful mathematics of economics, and I thought it was being used to study problems that were not as interesting to me like the optimal cake eating problem. You see my size. I'm 6' 2", 215-- I eat the whole cake. But I thought maybe these things can be used on problems that I deeply care about like why all the kids in my neighborhood-- not a lot of them went to college even though I thought they had great talent, why many of my friends ended up incarcerated at young ages even though I thought there was a lot of potential. And so what I do is I go around and we raise a lot of dollars. We've probably raised a couple hundred million dollars at this point over the last 10 years to run experiments. That's the economist in me, right? I don't tie my shoes without a treatment and control group. But to run experiments so that we can really understand what works and what doesn't with the idea that we want to lower inequality in America by expanding opportunity. There's a thing here somewhere, isn't there. So I'm going to show you a project I've been working on for the last year and a half. It hasn't made me the most popular, and that's what happens sometimes when you're dealing with big data. Sometimes, you get answers that aren't what you expected when you started. Like many of you, I was really and I am really concerned with what's going on between race and police in communities across America. We had started with-- I should say it started with. It became more salient for us with Michael Brown in Ferguson, Eric Garner in New York City, Laquan McDonald in Chicago, I could go on. And I was frustrated by this, to be honest with you. I was tired of looking at my TV at night and seeing the protests and silly debates. They weren't silly in their content, they were silly in their execution about what was actually going on. And as you might imagine, I'm kind of too weak to be protesting. I mean, it's like, hot out there, so I decided maybe what I should do-- my skin's too fair for that. But what I can do is go into our lab and roll up our sleeves, and see if we can actually make progress. OK, and so the key thing was like how do you make progress on something that is so deeply emotional? People on both sides of this issue are deeply emotional about it and rightly so. So here's what I did. I'll just tell you the full story. I called up Bud Riley, who turns out to be the police chief of the Harvard University Police. And I said, hey, bud. I'm interested in race and police, but I've got to be honest with you. I spent my youth running from dudes like you. So I don't really like you all that well, but I'd like to learn. And Bud said, I got just the thing for you. OK, true story. So Bud says, why don't you come over to my office tomorrow at 3 o'clock, and I've got something for you. I said, OK, Bud, but you know my grandmother always taught me not to just go hang out with police. This seems like a setup. So I brought one of my white students with me, and I was like, come on with me-- you can film this. OK, that's actually not true. That's not true. That part's not true. If I had thought about it first, it would have been true, but it's not true. I risked it. I went and had coffee with Bud in the afternoon, and Bud took me to the simulator. So I went into the police simulator where they actually train police officers because I thought this was easy. Because I got this fancy European wife who's like, why don't they just shoot him in the leg, and I'm like, well, I don't know. Why do they shoot him in the leg? So I go over and he puts on the utility belt like I'm going deep in here. Like, now, I'm in the sociology. I got the utility belt on, I've got my pistol on, I've got my nightlight or whatever police have, I got that stuff on, and I'm in this kind of simulator where bad guys are jumping out. And you've got to decide who to shoot. OK, so my first interaction-- I only have 10 minutes, so I can't bore you with all of them. Bottom line is I'm the worst police officer ever imaginable. But the first guy comes up-- true story-- and it's a mid-forties, maybe 50, white gentleman, long hair. And I'm going to a suburban pool party because there had been complaints. So I get there and this person is clearly inebriated and is a little handsy. You know, he's, why are you bothering me? What are you doing? And so I get a little nervous even though I'm in the simulator. And the simulator has got some artificial intelligence parts to it, so as I talk him down using de-escalation techniques, this image on the screen is supposed to relax. So I say to him, sir, I'm just doing my patrols here. You've got to relax. He says, well, you're always bothering me. I said, sir-- I'm talking to the screen now-- you've got to relax. And he put his hands in his pocket, and I decide that's enough for me. So I pull my gun on the guy. Bud turns on the lights, Professor, what are you doing? I was like, isn't that what you all do? Could have fooled me. And so we go through this training and I have to say in all seriousness, it was-- not just the training, but this whole experience I think I learned it was the most important lessons I learned in life since my grandmother taught me how to read. It turns out, police have a really tough job. And so my next thing was I learned how to shoot police issued weapons just because I wanted to understand, and then actually embedded myself in the Camden Police Department. Now, I know the police chief here in Boston, and I highly recommend anyone do a ride along with police just to understand their side of the story. I do not recommend riding along embedding yourself in Camden, New Jersey. OK, it was a crazy experience. We were responding to 911 calls. We were responding to shots fired. Now all of us thinkers, if there are some shots over here, our way to respond is to go over here, but it turns out, when you're in the police car and they start shooting, you've got to go in there. And it was an unbelievable experience. And in part because I've got to say, I'm not proud of it, but I would say it took five to six hours to get pretty desensitized because you're always seeing people in crisis. And that's not a part of policing that I ever thought about. You show up to a Wendy's and someone has threatened the cashier, and you show up three hours late because the Wendy's threatening thing was way down on your list of things to show up for. And you get there and you get yelled at for 30 minutes, and then you end up saying something nonsensical like, if they come back and threaten again, call us. Give us a three hour window. It was incredible, and so I did all this because I wanted to do a few things. One-- I'm going to show some data as I go-- I wanted to learn how to talk cop. That was important. I wanted to build trust with police departments, and most importantly for an economist, I needed some data. And so what we've done is we have collected now in places like New York City, 6 million data observations over the last 15 years on use of force that ranges anywhere from policemen putting their hands on you to hitting you with a baton. We've also worked with lots of cities-- Houston, Arlington, Austin, most counties in Florida, Boston, Camden-- to collect data on officer-involved shootings because it's not enough, and you guys know this from high school statistics. It's not enough to just look at numbers of people who are being shot. That's also awful, but that's not enough statistically. What you really want to understand is in a similar situation, does race impact the probability of a police officer pulling the trigger? That's a very different question. In that question, the burden of the data is strong because you need to understand all of the police shootings that could have happened but didn't. That's far more complicated. In fact, just in one city alone, we spent 50 minutes per observation, hand-typing them in the police department because they didn't trust us to leave with the data. We had to pay a sergeant $50 an hour to watch us type in the data. OK, and we typed in roughly 2,000 observations. It took us nearly a year. Here's what we found. This is the odds ratio for blacks versus whites, so anything over one shows a racial difference. On the X-axis here, I have the amount of force used. Yeah, so one is hands, seven is baton. This is the same for Hispanics. On the Y-axis is the odds ratio. Anything over one means that Hispanics are more likely to have that use of force, and on the X-axis, it's the same. These are uses of force. OK, now this is important because a couple of reasons. One, we usually don't have data on uses of force. Particularly like, do you put your hands on someone? We even have data that I can't show you today because of time where I know just if the police officer shouted at you. OK, and so what you find here is something pretty interesting. When it comes to any force being used, blacks are 53% more likely to have any force used on them in any interaction with police. Now, this is reported by the police. So maybe this is an underestimate, maybe it's not, but it's reported by the police. This is not people complaining on a survey. This is administrative data from the police. As the use of force increases, the racial difference remains pretty constant at about 25%. Here's a pretty interesting fact, even when you look at individuals who are perfectly compliant as reported by the police, perfectly compliant-- not arrested, they don't have contraband, there is nothing in the record to show that any ill was done-- the racial differences in whether or not force was used in that interaction is roughly 24%. So there are large racial differences between Hispanics and African-Americans in the US on lower level uses of force that I cannot explain with the data, and many, many police departments as I've talked to them about this over the last few months agree with this. They understand. Some police departments-- sometimes when you get into more rural areas to be very blunt about it-- they don't want to debate with these data, but the vast majority of them understand that there may be an issue on the use of force. What's interesting, however, is that when you actually look at police shootings, we find no racial differences. We find racial differences in the numbers. More African-Americans are shot by police than whites, but not once you actually take more context into account. OK, so this is where we went to places like Houston and others and collected very, very detailed data on racial differences in officer-involved shootings. Now, here's a very important caveat, we don't have every city. We don't have Chicago. I'd love Chicago. We don't have Chicago. They won't give it to me. I've asked many times. After we released this paper, myself and a couple of the folks who started the Black Lives Matter movement met with President Obama for five hours in the White House. Five hours and after it was over-- and that's a long time to meet with the president, and frankly I had to pee. And what do you do? Like, Mr. President-- this was one of the big issues in that meeting. I was sitting there like, Mr. President, that's really interesting. Finally, I-- this is true, ask Loretta Lynch. I have a little handwritten note that I wrote to Loretta Lynch. Like, this is the first interaction you have with her, you want to be really good and bold and like, this is the thing my grandmother prepared me for. And my little notes says, where do I pee? Anyway, so we met and we debated this a lot, and I asked him-- I said, Mr. President, is there anything the White House can do to further this research? I said, you can get me data from Chicago. He said, is there anything else the White House can do? So we don't see it. We don't see it whether it's on the shootings, so we look at similar situations in the data and calculate the times where shooting could have taken place but didn't. We don't see it there. Houston has a really interesting thing because on the strong arm in Houston, there is a pistol. On the weak arm, there's a Taser, so in economics lingo, that's a discrete choice problem. You either shoot or taser. We actually don't see any racial differences on Tasers. We don't see any racial differences on any city in which we have data. Again, with the caveat being, they gave us the data. Now. Why is this important? It's important because you've heard several times, you have great choices, awesome. So do a lot of us, but the key thing that's awesome about being here-- I've been here for 15 years, and I will always stay here as long as ideas are my only constraint. And that's what's so wonderful about this place. Ideas truly are your only constraint, and so-- and data. Ideas are really your only constraint, and I really believe that this is the future for understanding racial inequality in America and around the world. It's using the passion that fueled our parents, and our grandparents, and our great grandparents, but using the tools of computer science, and economics, and artificial intelligence, and those disciplines who have been set silent when it comes to racial inequality in America to truly solve these problems. We actually need you. Your generation thinks about race differently than mine, and we need your insights and your mental capabilities to finally put this old problem to bed through data, through analysis, and through objective thinking. Thanks, enjoy your visit. [APPLAUSE] MARLYN E. MCGRATH: Thank you. Another person is about to speak to us who has another extraordinarily varied history. I don't want to focus right in on the plebeian stuff, but I do know that she raised five children while she was a graduate student getting her PhD in history. But she actually was born in the west. She comes east from Idaho. She was born in a small town in Idaho, and went to the University of Utah. This is Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, one of Harvard's 25 very esteemed university professors. That means that she can teach anywhere at any time, I think, on any topic actually, so we'll see what she does for us today. Her work has crossed so many boundaries of disciplines, which I think is one of the hallmarks actually of everybody speaking to us today. It's one of the hallmarks of the new university as it were. One of her books, A Midwife's Tale, which some of you may have read, won the Pulitzer Prize for history and the Bancroft Prize for history. She's also winner of the Harvard College Professorship in recognition of her excellence and interest in undergraduate teaching. She really focuses on the history of early America, but she teaches a very, very popular course. This may have something to with what she says to us today at Harvard called Tangible Things, promoting an understanding of history through material objects. She is also affiliated with one of the residential houses, Dunster House, and her latest book, which is currently I think still in press, A House Full of Females-- Mormon diaries, 1830 the 1870. Laurel. [APPLAUSE] LAUREL THATCHER ULRICH: Hello. Well, my goodness, aren't I lucky? I got to follow all these fabulous talks, and I'm up here to talk about improbable things. Hmm, and I even have two titles to remind you. I am really interested in the common and the ordinary, and I have a challenge here to convince you that there's some value in that. When somebody asks me to think big, I have an inclination to start small. I'm a historian. History is all around us. I hope you can feel it in this building that we're in today. It's meant to intimidate you, it's meant to overpower you, and I can tell, some of you at least can feel that sense. But we can get ahold of lives and ahold of our position in the world. If we can exercise a lot more curiosity about ordinary things, including the things sitting right in front of us, and so I'm going to try to convince you of that a little bit today. What did you have for breakfast this weekend? Did they feed you a very strange thing called a Veritaffle? Did anyone get a Veritaffle? No? Yes? Yes? Oh, if you didn't get a Veritaffle this time, you'll get one when you come back. What is a Veritaffle? It's one of the strangest things on this campus. It's actually a waffle produced on, I think, generally on Sunday mornings in the Harvard dining halls that is impressed with the official Harvard seal. The Harvard seal? It is three open books arranged in a kind of triangle and one syllable of the three syllable word Veritas embossed upon on it. Veritas, which is a Latin word for AUDIENCE: Truth. LAUREL THATCHER ULRICH: Truth, you've already got it. OK, what's going on here? What are they trying to do? Are they trying to get you to think big? Is that what goes on in the dining hall as you pour syrup on your Veritaffle? Well, Veritas is all over the place. When you walk out of the auditorium today and you're in what's called the transept, at each end of the transept is a stained glass window, and you will find the word Veritas in both of those windows in slightly different forms. I'd like to suggest a little game, as you go around campus, looking for various manifestations of this word to Veritas. They show up on windows, on t-shirts, on banners. Here, we are in the entrance to Widener Library. Here is a really fabulous example that you're not going to find walking around campus, but if you're lucky enough to go into the University Archives and ask, they might show you a Harvard flag emblazoned with the symbol Veritas that went many, many times circumnavigated the earth in 1991 in the space shuttle Atlantis. So Veritas has gotten around a bit. Where did it come from? I think as you see this symbol over of a campus, you think nothing could be more stable, nothing could be more ancient than the Harvard seal. And in fact, if you went into the Harvard Archives, you would find in an early college book this inscribed in 1643, someone drew the outline of the shield and in a crude kind of way, outlined and designed the Harvard seal with the word for truth. Unfortunately, a few historians have been punking around in the archives. This is a legitimate document-- it's real. But somebody designed the symbol for Veritas, but the college didn't want it. They didn't like it. They turned it down, and they preferred something more specific to the Puritan origins of Harvard. And they gave it a Latin term Christi Gloriam-- to the glory of Christ, and that symbol in various forms, different Latin incarnations about Christ in the church, to the glory of Christ. The ultimate purpose of Harvard College initially was to train a learned ministry. In various incarnations, that version of the Harvard seal lasted through the administration of President Josiah Quincy, who actually found the old document from 1643, and it continued until the 1880s. Long, long time after the origins of the universities, and it was there in time to show up on the base of the John Harvard statue, which you have all seen. So, what was going on here? What was this fight about? This was about what kind of university Harvard was going to be, and those who eventually went out and reduced the shield to its old 1643 version wanted a kind of universal commitment to truth rather than the ratification of the sectarian original organization of Harvard. Now, why does this matter? I'm not sure that the people who come up to the John Harvard statue, which was installed in 1884, care this isn't John Harvard. Nobody knows what he looks like. I mean, this is a historical fact that Harvard took its name from the donation of books from John Harvard, but nobody seemed to notice that and create this statue of Harvard until almost 250 years later. People don't care about that. This is about the present, like the Veritaffle. It's not about the past. It's about the present. Is it about a Harvard brand, or is it about something more enduring and something more significant about a commitment to an idea? So what the Veritaffle teaches me-- and it's a theme I hammer on in my courses-- is history is not the old and moldy. History is not the past. History is the study of how things change. You want to change the world? You really want to know how people have changed things in the past. History is not about the veneration of the past. It's about understanding it. And history remains contentious as you know if you noticed in the newspapers the controversy over the seal of Harvard Law School, which was recently, with the approval of the corporation, done away with because it carried a symbol about slavery. It's a very complicated story that I won't go in here today, but history is controversial. And history is above all, a conversation between present and past, about what matters, about who we are, what kind of boundaries we establish between one another. This project, Tangible Things, that I have engaged in with a number of colleagues for many years, one of the things we've done is dig into archives and museums at Harvard to look for little stuff, small stuff that open up new ways of thinking about the world around us. We found lots of interesting things in our explorations, but none of us were quite prepared to meet Harvard's 120-year-old tortilla. Yes, it's there. It's in the Harvard Herbaria and botanical research libraries-- a place that Professor [? Claymore ?] does some of her path-breaking work is recorded. A tortilla, what on earth is doing there? Well, it confronts us with a past we've forgotten and invites us to confront it, and invites us to explore, and to understand. It's pretty obvious that if Harvard is collecting tortillas-- and when I dug into this problem, I discovered a whole jar of tortillas that are 139 years old collected in Mexico by a man named Edward Palmer, who pioneered a new field called ethnobotany, which was not just about plants and their development but was about how people used plants. So he paid a lot of attention to how women in the areas he was researching in Mexico made their tortillas-- very interesting documents that survived, and so interestingly enough, these tortillas that were collected by people who were called botanic explorers in the 19th and early 20th century, went out to find plants. These ended up-- some in the anthropology museum, some in the botanical museum, or the herbarium. And then something else interesting happened, it wasn't just about the advancement of science, the collection of usable plant products, or the plants themselves. It was about a kind of science that supported the larger economy and found new ways to use plants. Harvard has then a collection in something called economic botany that is how to take a plant and make it useful. A man named Oakes Ames-- the archive with economic botany is named after him, and looking at his papers, I was just fascinated because it was an example of how something that looks kind of clever and interesting in the 1920s becomes a big political controversy in our own time-- as he noted that someone had figured out how to make a substitute for maple syrup out of corn or maize. So, what did you have for lunch? I have no idea, but I know many of you have eaten the products produced by economic botany. And if you start with a tortilla and begin to move forward in time to a time when a tortilla was so exotic that nobody in Cambridge, Massachusetts has ever seen one and therefore put it in a museum exhibit to a time when that's practically all some of us eat, and how did that happen? How did that change occur in ordinary life as manufacturers took over? And here's the interesting thing, food crosses boundaries and creates boundaries as people move from place to place. So the Frito Kid, blue eyed and blond, becomes the Frito Bandito and then it sort of pushed off the screen for something else, and we are now in the period of the perfectly organic, healthy, gluten-free, fabulously [? hand-produced, ?] authentic Mexican tortilla made in Western Massachusetts or perhaps Joe Bravo's fascinating tortilla art produced and sold in galleries in Los Angeles. Food is about history. Common things take us beyond our own lives, not just to foreign places, but to lost eras in time, and food can also remind us, I think, that in a world where humble bread, a tortilla crosses boundaries, it can still remain very difficult for some people to do so. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] MARLYN E. MCGRATH: Our clean-up batter, David Malan is one of our own. I've known him since he was an undergraduate here. This is the place where all of his degrees come from. Today, he is Gordon MacKay Professor of the practice of computer science in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and a member of the faculty of education. He teaches-- I'm struggling here-- he teaches Computer Science 50, which is the largest course at Harvard College. But he has also taught Computer Science 50 as it's known here, which was the largest course at Yale. That is his, I think, principle Yale connection. And that's quite a popular course. As I say, it's our largest course. We don't have a lot of large courses, but that is a biggie. He's done a lot of other things. When he went to graduate school, I think he worked for the Middlesex District Attorney office as a forensic investigator, and that has influenced some of his work since then. Today, he does a lot with security and privacy and digital forensics and so on. He lived in Mather House where I think he retains a connection, and despite his very young age, he is the founding father really of Visitas Thinks Big and has always been the person who supported its widespread production values. So thank you, David, again for doing this. I should also say because you told me to and I almost forgot, that even though I will urge you when David is through, I think, to go to the Extracurricular Fair, which is up at Hilles. Which is really one of the great-- Hilles Library, which is one of the great fairs and see Harvard people doing the things they do when they're not in the classroom. That's normally at 4 o'clock-- it is at 4 o'clock. When you leave here whenever we finish, which won't be terribly long, you will have plenty of time to get there, so you don't need to rush out. You get to hear David. [APPLAUSE] DAVID MALAN: I teach computer science. So thank you. So I indeed teach CS50, and I took this class myself as a freshman. It was the fall of 1996, but I almost did it. In fact, I got to campus and I didn't really know what I wanted to do to be honest. I kind of gravitated toward, I think, things I knew. Like, I thought back on high school, and I kind of liked history, really liked constitutional law, and sort of liked English. And so I very naturally, my freshman year 1995, gravitated toward things with which I was familiar. And I swear to God, I was one of these students where I went into one of my first meetings with my freshman proctor or RA who lives in the dorms with you, and I can't believe she humored this, I went in with a 32-course proposal with what I wanted to do in that first week or two of college. Most of which, I ended up not actually taking and thank God. It wasn't until sophomore year that, honestly, I finally got up the nerve and got the confidence to sort of veer off of that path that just felt most comfortable, and I put my toes in unfamiliar waters and finally got up the nerve to take a class called CS50 or Introduction to Computer Science for concentrators and non concentrators. And that was only because at the time, the professor let me sign up for pass/fail because I indeed had this fear of failure. It was something unfamiliar to me. I thought back on high school, and it was one of those areas, one of those kinds of classes to beware. Frankly, it didn't even seem all that enthralling. I still remember looking through the glass window of the computer lab in my high school just seeing all of my friends kind of hunkered over computer terminals, like, typing away. It just didn't seem interesting, didn't seem social, didn't seem germane, and so when I finally got to campus and put my toes in these waters in shop CS50, did I realize that this whole field CS was actually more familiar to me than I thought. And the reality is that it opens your eyes to intuitions and ideas that you yourself might already be familiar with, you just kind of need to learn how to harness it and think about it. And indeed, most all of us have these kinds of devices in our pockets, or laptops, or desktops in our homes, and for the most part, we only do what people let us do with them, right? We download an app or some piece of software, and we use that because someone else has made it for us. And yet, with this same machine and with this same device can I actually build things, and create, and solve problems of my own. And they don't even need to be all that unfamiliar, so this is an old school problem like looking someone up in a phone book. If we imagine this is a really big whitepages with like 1,000 pages, and I'm looking for someone like Mike Smith, this isn't all that different from what happens nowadays on our iPhones and Android devices where if you pull up your contacts app, you probably see all of your friends and family alphabetically by first name or last name. And that's essentially what we have in this technology here, and now if I wanted to find Mike Smith, I could sort of start at the beginning of this problem, look down at the page, and if he's not there, which indeed he's not in the A section, I might turn a page, turn a page, turn a page and not see Mike Smith. And so I continue proceeding one more page at a time. This is incredibly tedious, it's incredibly slow, but it is correct because if Mike Smith is in this phone book, I'll eventually reach him. Now, of course, I could optimize this. I could think a little harder about it, how to solve this problem not just correctly but well, efficiently, and I could start to do something like 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, and so forth. That's going to get me through the problem twice as fast and find like twice as fast, but it's potentially flawed. There's a flaw, right? If Mike accidentally ends up sandwiched between two pages. So I might at least have to double back. If maybe I hit the T section in the book, I might have to double back one page just to double check that I didn't blow past him, but that too is not something any of us are going to do in this room. All of us already have the intuition for sort of opening this problem to the middle, looking down, realizing, oh, I'm in the M section, so Mike must clearly be in the right half of this phone book. And so we can tear the problem in half, throw, if I may, half of it away. And now what's interesting about this problem is that it's fundamentally the same, but it's gone from 1,000 pages to 500. But the algorithm, the step by step instructions that I can now apply myself are the same-- go roughly to the middle, look down, and I say, oh, I'm now in the T section, so I've gone a little too far. And so I can again tear the problem in half, throw that half of the problem away, and now I've got 250 pages. And if I repeat down to 125 and again and again and again ultimately theoretically we end up with just one page on which Mike either is or is not. And what I realized early on is that that is what computer science actually is. It's about problem solving. And we might bring to bear computers and programming on those problems, but those computers are really just tools that we use and means to an end. Computer science is not itself about programming but about problem solving, and yet it took me years until graduate school when I was back here again and this time focusing not just in computer science but dabbling in an elective. I enrolled as an auditor in Anthropology 1010 Introduction to Archeology. I admittedly had this sort of mid-grad school crisis where I wondered, why am I becoming a computer scientist? Archeology is a lot more interesting, a lot more fun or so I thought sort of halfway through my thesis work or aspirations. But what archeology opened my eyes to was the interconnections of computer science with other fields. In fact, it's such a simple thing to imagine going on Google Maps or Google Earth these days. For instance, to pull up something like the place we're currently in, searching for something like Sanders Theatre and then thanks to technology, being flown down to where we are right now. But in anthro 1010, I had the opportunity to see my professors actually leverage this technology in a much more compelling academic way whereby we might have searched for the great pyramids zooming halfway across the world, zooming down pretty low thanks to satellite imagery, and actually be able to see not just well-known artifacts like this but archaeological digs from which my professor that semester had just come back. And he was able to give us this aerial view and really open our eyes thanks to software and thanks to computer science and its outgrowths to actually exploring yet other problems still. And so it's not just CS plus archeology. I also realize quickly that I could apply CS to frosh IM, so rewind a few years. Freshman intramural sports for some time didn't even have a website. Back in the day, we signed up for sports and walked across the yard, slid them under the doors of the proctors, and registered. Well, I instead discovered that I could actually apply my newfound skills and savvy from CS50, CS51, and follow on courses and actually solve that problem with software, but more generally did we have this sort of opportunity to combine CS with other things-- CS plus X, if you will, where X, a variable, might be the arts, or business, or engineering, humanities, law, medicine, sciences, applied sciences, social sciences, or any number of other fields. In fact, at the end of this particular course, this introductory course CS50, do we end the semester with a campus-wide celebration of what the students in that class achieve over the course of just one semester-- students who were just like you sitting here some year ago. In fact, in CS50, 53% of the students this past year were first-year, 62% of those are among those they describe as less comfortable with the idea of even being in a CS class, not unlike myself some years ago, 68% had never even taken a CS course, and yet at the end of the semester at this so-called CS50 fair are expressions like this all around the room where all several hundred students in the class come together with a few thousand students and faculty and staff across campus to celebrate in exactly what students have accomplished by a bit of new exposure to a field that they might not remain. And indeed, the majority of students in CS50 and in Introductory Computer Science don't stay within the CS but take these ideas and new skills back to problems of their own domain in a number of those other fields. In fact, just to give you a glimpse of some of this past year where CS plus X was in fact personified in some of our very students, Lyra and Sarah here implemented an iPhone app that actually enabled people who are color blind to effectively see colors by taking a photograph of something and then telling them what the actual color is thanks to the camera on the phone. Nick here implemented software that used image recognition to take printed old school music like this, run it through software that figured out what those notes were so that he could then change it to be targeted at one instrument instead of the other for which it was designed. Allison and Rita actually implemented a site for Harvard student agencies on campus here to facilitate the pairing of Harvard students with high school students for tutoring opportunities. Angela and Isabel, virtual postering an event board website so that students could publicize and bring themselves together across campus. Stephen and Stuti here, a stock simulator iPhone app so that you could actually simulate buys and sells of stocks. Chris and Enxhi here, an app that actually allows you to compose a reading list for yourself by scanning ISBNs and other such decodes in the back of a book. And then lastly, folks like Lucas here, who actually you can see him talking into an Amazon Alexa at top right commanding his computer to do something, so it's a car simulating the sorts of things that are very much in trend in industry today. And then Billy, and Sam, and Victor here, they wrote a website that allows you to mimic text. So you read in and scan in text from well-known dignitaries, or politicians, or authors, and you can generate text that's very much reminiscent of and statistically equivalent to the kind of language those humans might have written themselves. Jeanette, and Ken, and Mary here implementing a website that allowed students to actually improve their bill of health by actually dropping the Raman and getting recommendations for food. Alice and Ian, anonymous chat servers for peer counselors. Luke, one of our students at Yale, visualizations of NBA player's missed or hit shots. From the court, Mai-linh and Maria, a website that allowed them to actually stop themselves from using websites like Facebook and other such distractions so that they could actually focus on their own studies. And some of our students even did something like this using virtual reality-- the ability to put on headsets like this these days and be able to look up, down, left, right and actually see a virtual space that isn't physically here but is recorded effectively or created in software so that you can explore other areas beyond your present tense. And indeed, this is what we ourselves in CS50 focused on exploring this year, CS plus X where X is education considering how we might bring to bear this technology to bring high school students, adult learners from around the world to a place like this that we're all fortunate to enjoy and experience and have as a place of learning and yet bring it to others virtually around the world. In fact, this is a clip from our first lecture this past year, and if you can see, at the top there is a special camera that we put right in the middle of Sanders Theatre here. And it's got eight lenses that look up, down, left, right, forward, back, and via these eight lenses do we end up getting essentially eight videos that thanks to CS50's team behind the scenes, we stitched together. So all of these individual circles you see become just part of a sphere to create this virtual world around, and so long as you have a headset like this or another headset like this Google Cardboard can you actually achieve this and experience this yourself. In fact, we ourselves in CS50 and our team of TFs, and CAs, and producers decided to go beyond our own comfort zone this past year and define X in this case to be an opportunity where X is dance and X is music, and thanks to CS50's own, Lauren Scully and our production team, thanks to some of our friends on campus, the Harvard Veritones, one of the acapella groups on campus, did we head up to the Harvard dance studio just a few weeks ago, build a 360 degree set like this, plant that special camera right in the middle, and capture the experience of song and dance in this virtual space. In fact, I think we have just a minute. This is perhaps best explained through experience and not through retelling. Do we have a moment for one volunteer from the audience? OK, come on up. What's your name? JESSICA: Jessica. DAVID MALAN: Jessica? Jessica, come on up, and as you see, this young man here also jumped up on stage. This is Connor who was where you sat two years ago at Visitas. This was him in that same first lecture and he's joined CS50's team since to help us bring this together. Jessica, nice to meet you. So Connor's going to get you set up here, and the one disclaimer is that you have to be-- and I should have said this before-- you have to, one, be comfortable appearing here on camera, and two, do you like surprises, too? JESSICA: I guess so. DAVID MALAN: I guess so. OK, we'll take that, and so what you're about to see is just a minute clip from what we think is the first ever collegiate virtual reality recording of an acapella performance by the same group on campus featuring the Veritones of Niya Avery. And in three dimensions here, as I switch our screen over, will Jessica, our brave volunteer, be able to look up, down, left, or right. And if we could dim the lights at this point, will you see on the overhead, thanks to the wire she's connected to, what she's experiencing. And we can increase the volume, too. And there's Niya. So you'll notice that she looks up and down. You're seeing exactly what she's saying in this dance studio. [MUSIC PLAYING] JESSICA: Oh, woah. [SINGING] I tried hard to make you want me, but we're not supposed to be. And the truth will always haunt me even though it set me free. You haunted me, taunted me all in my brain. Turn off the light and now all that remains fills me with doubt, and I'm shouting your name out loud. Why do you want to put me through the pain? I get the feeling I'll never escape. I can't hide away from the shame of you. Tears on the ground, tears on my pillow, you won't bring me down. I'll get over you. This is to get me through, and I'll get over you. I'll get over you. I'll get over you. When did you lose your emotion? When did you become so cruel? And if you want to cut me open, it says a thousand words about you. In time, I know you'll leave me like a distant memory. I know love can be so easy if I start by loving me. You haunted me, taunted me all in my brain. Turn out the light and all that remains fills me with doubt, and I'm shouting your name out loud. Why do you want to put me through the pain? I get the feeling I'll never escape. I can't hide away from the shame of you. Tears on the ground, tears on my pillow. You won't bring me down, and I'll get over you. I'll get over you. Tears on the ground, rain at my window. The pain washes out, and I'll get over you. These tears will get me through, and I'll get over you. I'll get over you. I'll get over you. I'll get over. I don't need you to call me tonight. I don't need you to see if I'm all right. You left me, so leave me, I'm fine. I'll be here getting on with my life. Tears on the ground, tears on my pillow, you won't bring me down. I'll get over you. The rain on my window, the pain washes off. I'll get over you. I'll get over you. [APPLAUSE] MARLYN E. MCGRATH: Thank you to everybody who took part in this. That means everybody in the audience as well. This has been a great event for us. Thank you for giving us this piece of your beautiful Sunday afternoon. I hope you enjoy the rest of your stay, hope you have a wonderful time tomorrow, hope you have great fun tonight. I hope enjoy the fair up at Hilles if that's what you do. Thank you.


  1. ^ "Gray Herbarium (GH)". Harvard University Herbaria & Libraries. Retrieved January 4, 2015. 
  2. ^ "About the Index". IPNI. IPNI come from three sources: ..., the Gray Card Index (GCI) 

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